Local Hunter initiative Victory Gardens is all about showcasing how bringing small, edible gardens into urban spaces can benefit office staff, apartment dwellers and the broader community alike.
Founded by Justine Ulph, she is passionate about the underlying concept that drives the business.
“In an attempt to alleviate food shortages during war times, allied governments campaigned to encourage their citizens to plant a ‘victory garden’ either in their own yards or in public spaces,” Justine said.
“While today’s challenges may be different, there is a need to build resilience and resourcefulness in our cities around growing food. Issues related to food security, food miles and the quality of the fresh food is forcing us to look at how and from where we source our food and the environmental impacts of that.”
“Combine this with the pressures of greater urban density and our green spaces become even more vital for our health and wellbeing,” Justine continued.
Victory Gardens offers a range of transportable, self watering products, together with design and engagement consultancy services, to turn otherwise under-utilised spaces to productive places in residential, commercial, health and ageing and public domains.
“Businesses who are interested in social responsibility and occupational health and safety can convert idle balconies or courtyards to relaxing spaces where staff can actively tend to a garden to de-stress, take a break from their desk, and grow part of their lunch.”
This can be managed under the watchful eye of the Victory Gardens team Justine Ulph and Jackie Sargeant who provide ongoing seasonal maintenance services.
As an example of a victory garden in practice, staff of the NSW Health Pathology head office in Newcastle East were keen to maximise their large balcony space and saw a garden as a place to nurture, build team spirit and relax in.
Spokesperson for NSW Health Pathology Maureen Ryan said they saw is as an opportunity to make their balcony area a more varied and enticing space.
“The Victory Gardens team have done a fantastic job in helping to add colour and interest to the area,” Maureen said.
“The garden has become very much a team activity, with everyone getting involved with watering the plants and keeping them healthy. We’ve set up a roster and there’s even an official “watering stick” which passes from team to team.”
“There are so many benefits we’ve seen. Harvesting food and herbs from the garden not only gives staff access to fresh produce, but also lures them away from their desks to socialise in the sunlight and fresh air. Also, with everyone taking turns to look after the garden, people have developed ownership and an interest in the plants and enjoy the opportunity to be out there. Not everyone is a gardener, so it’s been a new experience for a number of them.”
Newcastle is no stranger to meaningful social enterprise, with initiatives such as Renew Newcastle placing the city at the forefront of Australian social innovation. Victory Gardens folds neatly into this milieu, providing further opportunities for local people to engage in green spaces that benefit themselves and their local community.
Image | Jackie & Justine undertake a fitout